Beaufort is the easternmost town in the Crystal Coast region of Carteret County, North Carolina; the county seat; and the third-oldest town in the state. Established in 1713 on the Newport River, Beaufort was named after Henry Somerset, the Duke of Beaufort. Beaufort's two main claims to fame are its intact historical homes and its connection with the dreaded pirate Blackbeard. The town's name is pronounced differently than that of its South Carolina namesake; this Beaufort is "BO-furt" (IPA ['bou.frt]).
As with practically every other town in the area, you'll reach Beaufort via US-70, which runs through the middle of the town before turning north toward Atlantic.
Beaufort became big news when the Queen Anne's Revenge, the pirate ship belonging to Blackbeard, was discovered under 20 feet of water in the Beaufort Inlet in 1996. It's still underwater, but retrieval and restoration processes are underway. Until it rises above the waves, there are various Blackbeard-related activities around town, including a walking tour around town and a display highlighting his ship in the Maritime Museum.
Beaufort is renowned for its dozens of restored historic homes. The Beaufort Historical Association, founded in 1960, mounts plaques on the outside of homes that are over 80 years old and which have not been greatly altered. The oldest is considered to be the Hammock House of 1698, which was once an inn that regularly served Blackbeard. The Beaufort Historic Site offers tours of ten of these buildings, clustered in two acres of the downtown area.
There's also a picturesque old cemetery, the Old Burying Ground on Ann Street, dating from 1709. Many of the gravestones are unmarked, the earliest inscriptions being from 1756. Tours are given June through September, from Tuesday through Thursday at 2:30 pm, for $6 (adults).
In fact, if you're interested in all things historical, the best thing to do would be to stop by the Beaufort Historical Association at 138 Turner Street, 252-728-5225.
The Beaufort waterfront was revitalized in the 1970s, and now boasts a wooden boardwalk by the water's edge, and lots of gift shops and restaurants. Across the waterfront, you can often see wild ponies roaming Carrot Island.
The North Carolina Maritime Museum, 315 Front Street, 252-728-7317, . Open from 9 to 5 on weekdays, 10 to 5 on Saturdays, and 1 to 5 on Sundays; closed around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. Features exhibits on the area's maritime history, artefacts recovered from the wreck of Blackbearks Queen Anne's Revenge, local fossils, various types of watercraft, commercial fishing, waterfowl hunting and decoys, coastal marine life including venomous snakes, a model-ship-making shop, and much more. Boatbuilding classes are offered throughout the year.
Go for a tour of historic Beaufort; specialties include the Ghost Walk, the Legend of Blackbeard tour, the Dolphin Adventure and airplane tours of the Crystal Coast.
The Beaufort Old Homes and Gardens Tour is held annually during the last weekend in June. Narrated tours take visitors through restored and under-restoration private homes, gardens and other local attractions. An antique car show is also held the same weekend. The tour starts at the Beaufort Historical Association at 138 Turner; tickets are $16 in advance, $20 at the door.
The Beaufort Music Festival, 252-728-0707, . Free admission. Comes to town for one weekend in April/May, featuring musical groups on several performance stages in town.
The nine-mile-long island of Shackleford Banks is home to the locally-famous Shackleford Ponies, the descendants of horses that reportedly swam ashore from a sinking Spanish ship in the 16th century. Today, the horses are endangered, but can be seen on cruises to the island for around $22 (adults). 
The Rachel Carson Estuarine Research Reserve is a sanctuary covering 2,675 acres on a string of islands on the Taylor Creek, between Beaufort and Shackleford Banks. The reserve is also home to marine laboratories from the three main Research Triangle universities, conducting marine research and education. Features a half-mile interpretive trail highlighting the reserve's native flora and fauna, and special features. Shackleford ponies often swim across to the islands for food. The reserve can be reached by private boat from Beaufort.
Discovery Diving Company, 414 Orange Street, 252-728-2265, . The shipwrecks in this area make Beaufort an appealing spot for scuba diving; charter trips are available for $60 - $110 plus equipment rental, and the company also offers classes in various types of diving (including nighttime and cavern diving), emergency rescue and underwater photography.
Outer Banks Ferry Service,  326 Front Street (across from the Maritime Museum) 252.728.4129. Passenger ferries to Cape Lookout, Shackleford Banks, Sand Dollar Island, Carrot Island and custom scenic, nature, fishing trips available also. From $8 for adults, $4 for children.
Island Ferry Adventures, 610 Front Street, 252-728-7555, . Ferries run from 9 am daily from mid-March to November, weather permitting. Passenger ferries to Shackleford Banks, Sand Dollar Island, Carrot Island and the Bird Shoals, as well as a dolphin watch and a scenic nature cruise. $8 - $14 round-trip per adult.
Mystery Tours, Incorporated, 410 Front Street suite 2, 252-728-2527 or 866-230-BOAT, . Three tour boats offering fishing trips, dolphin watching (including a brunch trip), sightseeing cruises, lighthouse cruises, shrimp buffet cruises, pig-pickin' cruses, dinner cruises, sunset cruises, nightclub cruises, island excursions, high-speed thrill rides and special charters. $9 - $40.
Lookout Cruises, Front Street on the waterfront, 252-504-SAIL, . Daily sailing excursions on a 45-foot catamaran; offering a Cape Lookout cruise, dolphin watch, sunset cruise and moonlight cruise. Private charters available.
Fly fishing is becoming a favorite local sport.
Visitors often come to Beaufort to stroll along the waterfront and browse in the town's unique shops; it's a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
The Bag Lady, 413 Front Street, 252-728-4200, . "Fun and funky" handbags in all sorts of unique designs; also check out the "Sun Tote", which doubles as a towel and a bag.
Beaufort Antiques, 126 Turner Street, 252-504-3838. Antiques and collectibles, estate pieces, folk art, Fenton glass. Open daily in summer; call for winter hours.
Handscapes Gallery, 410 Front Street, 252-728-6805 or 1-888-346-8334, . Handcrafted pottery, jewellery and glasswork, with an emphasis on North Carolina artists.
The General Store, 575 Front Street, 252-728-7707. Open 6 days a week. Ice cream, fudge and souvenirs.
Aqua, 114 Middle Lane, 252-728-7777, . Open for lunch from Tuesday to Friday, 11:30 am - 2 pm; and dinner Tuesday to Saturday, from 5:30 pm. Fresh seasonal food inspired by Spanish tapas. ($4 - $12 per "little bite".)
Clawson's 1905 Restaurant, 425 Front Street, 252-728-2133, . Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. Formerly a general store at the turn of the 20th century, now an award-winning restaurant famous for their mud pie. Offers seafood, steaks, pasta and "dirigibles" - large potatoes stuffed with vegetables, cheese, and meat or seafood.
Front Street Grill at Stillwater, 300 Front Street, 252-728-4956, . A waterfront restaurant with excellent views of Taylor's Creek and Carrot Island. Raw and baked oysters, gourmet appetizers and salads, and entrees with an emphasis on seafood. (Entrees range from $9.95 - $30.95.)
Net House Restaurant, 133 Turner Street, 252-728-2002. Hours vary by season. Arguably the best seafood restaurant in Beaufort, offering it steamed, broiled and lightly fried. Try the Down East clam chowder and their famous Key lime pie. $11.50 - $17.50.
The Sandbar Restaurant and Tiki Bar, 232 W Beaufort Rd, 252-504-7263, restaurant and tiki bar. Open daily for lunch and dinner; closed Sundays during the off season. Great views enable diners to watch the fishing boats and spectacular sunsets in the Caribbean-style outdoor bar. Live bands perform on weekends.
The very nature of Beaufort is sort of anti-giant-chain-hotel; instead, the town boasts several quaint bed-and-breakfasts for visitors who are looking for a little something special to complete their stay.
Anchorage House Bed and Breakfast, 211 Turner Street, 800-934-9968, . 4 rooms. An 1866 Gothic Revival cottage with a gift shop, porch and foyer for relaxing, pine floors and electric simulated wood-burning stoves. $75 - $150.
Carteret County Home B&B, 299 Highway 101, 252-728-4611, . 10 rooms. A county home dating from 1914, and Beaufort's only bed and breakfast listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Kitchenette with fridge, complimentary breakfast (juice, fruit, yogurt, warm muffins and bagels, tea and coffee), complimentary wine, two gas grills, croquet, darts and an old piano. Guest bicycles available. $85 - $105.
The Cedars by the Sea, 305 Front Street, 252-728-7036, . 12 rooms. Built around 1768, internationally recommended and awarded the title of one of North Carolina's Ten Best Inns. Private baths, antique tubs and fireplaces. $130 - $180.
Delamar Inn Bed and Breakfast, . 4 rooms. Built in 1866 and considered by many to be Beaufort's most authentic historic bed and breakfast. Antique guestrooms, three common sitting areas, an upper and lower porch, an English courtyard garden and a complimentary continental breakfast. $88 - $124.
Langdon House Bed and Breakfast, 135 Craven Street, 252-728-5499, . 4 rooms. Built in 1733 with first and second floor porches, a parlor and landscaped gardens. A two-course full breakfast is served in the morning, including fresh fruit, Belgian waffles and stuffed French toast. $78 - $115 off-season, $88 - $125 peak season.
Pecan Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast, 116 Queen Street, 252-728-6733 or 800-728-7871, . 7 rooms. Originally a Masonic lodge and schoolhouse in 1866. Three breezy porches, a 5,000-square-foot flower and herb garden, and a bountiful complimentary continental breakfast. $100 - $140 off-season, $130 - $175 peak season.
The Red Dog Inn, 113 Pollock Street, 252-728-5954, . 3 rooms. Dog-friendly accommodations, with a bottomless candy jar and pine floors. $90 - $140 off-season, $100 - $150 peak season.
If you want someplace less intimate but with a similar down-home feel, there are a couple of larger inns in town:
Beaufort Inn, 101 Ann Street, 252-728-2600 or 800-726-0321, . 44 rooms (some overlooking Gallant's Channel), exercise room and outdoor hot tub, a boat slip and bicycles for rent. A hot breakfast is served in the dining room; owner Katie Etheridge's breakfast pie (with egg, sausage and cheese) comes highly recommended.